Big news coming out of One Bills Drive! G Richie Incognitio announced his retirement recently in stunning fashion by firing his agent and notifying Peter King of Sports Illustrated that he is no longer playing after 12 seasons. He described his reasons due to stress along with maintaining a strict diet and issues with his liver and kidneys. Overall, a multitude of reasons led to this abrupt retirement especially after signing a contract which reduced his overall salary to help against the cap. Today’s post will assess his injury history to determine if any injuries are suspect to blame along with his social history which may have led to this sudden announcement.
Incognito was drafted in the 3rd round in 2005 out of Nebraska by the St. Louis Rams. During his time in the league, he has had stops in St. Louis, Miami, and two stints in Buffalo. During his time in St. Louis from 2005-2009, Incognito provided overall effective play and was able to relatively remain healthy. 2007 saw the offensive guard deal with an unspecified knee injury that led to being placed on IR for the rest of the season. 2009 saw Incognito deal with a foot injury midway through the season that caused him to miss 4 games. This is the only significant missed time that he missed during his career. There is little information available for St. Louis injury report from 2005-2008 which would shed light on early career injuries.
Following signing with Miami, 2010 saw him avoid injury and 2011 he dealt with an ankle injury that forced him to miss one game. 2012 saw him healthy, but 2013 dealt with a neck injury prior to being suspended for the infamous bullying incident with Jonathan Martin which kept him out of football for the rest of the 2013 season and all of 2014. After some time away from the game, Incognito made the most of his 2nd chance by signing with Buffalo and a rebirth of his career. During his time in Buffalo, the veteran suffered a shoulder injury during the 2015 season, a neck injury in 2016, and ankle and shoulder injuries during 2017. I cannot elaborate on the specifics of these injuries as there is little detail available other than general injury reports and limited video detailing the specific injuries.
For someone at his position, he has missed little time and the injuries that he has sustained have not been severe. In fact, as the older he got, the better his health and play had improved. Unfortunately, Incognito is a complex man with issues greater than physical health. It has been reported that Incognito has had much experience with drugs and alcohol during his time in the league. In 2007 while in training camp during rehabilitation, he admitted that he was out partying all night and doing things professional athletes shouldn’t be doing. He also reports in the same article how he was self medicating with marijuana and dealing with depression for which he was prescribed medication for in 2009. He describes that he was dealing with so much mental and physical stress during that time and that he needed to find balance in his life.
Elaborating more in Tyler Dunne’s article on Bleacher Report, Incognito states that he has been self medicating with alcohol and marijuana going back to his college days. Add in anger issues and that is a lot to handle for anyone. He does have an admitted problem which he appeared to have under control during his second stint in Buffalo. To the dismay of the front office and fans, Incognito is walking away after taking a pay cut that resulted in firing his agent and retiring suddenly.
Looking at everything, the man is 34 years old playing a punishing position with a long list of substance abuse and mental health complaints. While no one is perfect and no one can play forever, it is still disappointing to see him walk away. Readdressing his original comments regarding his liver and kidneys along with the stress may shed more light on the situation. The liver helps filter toxins out of the body, regulates blood composition, processes nutrients, and metabolizes alcohol & drugs, among other functions. The kidneys help remove waste & drugs from the body via urination helps regulate body fluids, assist in regulating blood pressure, and control production of red blood cells which assist in carrying oxygen through the body via hemoglobin. These two organs have likely taken a beating with the substance abuse that he has admitted to over his career. Add in stress from playing at such a high level and function of those organs can be compromised. The body can only take so much and both his doctors and him think that this is the breaking point which is leading him to walk away.
I will not elaborate as to what he is experiencing in his liver and kidneys specifically as I do not know and I believe there is better trained individuals to potentially identify those complaints. However, I am confident that injuries are not forcing him away from the game with stress being a cover. The abuse that football plays in forcing retirement does have an impact but is not the reason. Whether Incognito wants to return is totally on him and the Bills still retain his rights should he do so, but if he truly does walk away, it is for good. As he has not shown up for Phase I of OTA’s, it appears that he is sticking to his original decision.
The Bills offensive line has taken a beating this off season with the trade of T Cordy Glenn, the retirement of C Eric Wood, and now the retirement of G Richie Incognito. This may be the impetus for the front office to accelerate rebuilding their offensive line as it had begun to show its age this past season and as the team trends towards focusing on youth. Any which way you look at it, losing #64 hurts the team but does not kill them. The 12th year pro made the playoffs, several Pro Bowl’s, and walks away at the top of his game. Best of luck to Richie in retirement and I hope that he takes care of himself both mentally and physically.
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